I have a pet parrot. Pearl might look small on the outside, but that sharp, curved beak is mighty powerful when it comes to tearing up his toys (and my furniture!) My pet dachshund, J.P. Morgan, enjoys the stuffing in pet toys so much I am almost tempted to try it myself. So we have to buy him special "stuffing-free" toys, which, not surprisingly, are often more expensive than the "regular" kind. Oh, and I also have a betta fish, Gill. Gill wasn't that expensive, but with every new toy I buy him, I am also calculating in my head how many betta fish I could have bought for the price of the toy!

At three pets and counting, buying toys (not to mention food, vet visits and plenty of paper towels) can quickly add up for this single working gal, so I’ve had to figure out how to cut costs and still keep my pets happy. Here are four handy tips I've found to scout out low-cost or free pet toys that deliver full fun every time!

1. Visit local dollar stores and pet-friendly thrift stores

Dollar stores and thrift stores can have some fantastic toys and supplies for pets, and often the quality of what I've been able to find in these stores outdoes the quality of what I'd be able to afford when shopping at full-price pet stores.

Even better, in Houston, where I live, we have a nonprofit called CAP (Citizens for Animal Protection). They run a thrift store that has people stuff and pet stuff. One hundred percent of sales proceeds is donated to the CAP charity that sponsors pet adoptions. Here are the websites of some great stores I've found in different cities to give you an idea of what to search for in your area:

2. Check out discount chain stores

If you haven't yet browsed the housewares sections of stores like Marshalls and TJMaxx, you are in for a pet-centric treat. You’ll find everything from pet beds and food dishes to leashes and, of course, toys! I’ve found stuffing-free toys for Morgan for just a few dollars or less—far less than what big chain pet stores like PetSmart and Petco are charging for the exact same toys. And Morgan likes them just as much!

3. Try non pet-specific toys

It is safe to say that for every toy I purchase at full price for Pearl, he finds something I own that was not intended to be a parrot toy that he enjoys even more. For instance, one day I caught him tearing up my wicker indoor couch. So Mom and I went down to a local thrift shop and bought him "his own" wicker basket. Now he tears that up each and every day and has a fab time doing it. You can also repurpose old kids' toys your children have outgrown—but be sure to take any stuffing out first if your pet thinks it is a food group.

(NOTE: I share this tip with one additional caveat—be sure to check with your vet before you give your pet a toy not clearly specified for pet use that all the materials and/or ingredients are safe for pets.)

4. Try one of these online retailers

It almost goes without saying (especially here at KCL) that you can often find better deals on pet toys online than you can in stores. Just as an example, let's say you want to buy your new puppy a Kong toy. You’ll pay $5.94 at Petco, while buying from GregRobert Pet Supplies will only set you back $4.70—a $1.74 savings!

  • GregRobert Pet Supplies: This site has supplies, toys, cages, food and more for every pet under the sun and all at discounts advertised to be up to 50 percent off retail price. Plus, the website offers giveaways on its site and on Facebook, and has a code you can enter for shipping discounts, even on small orders. Plus, you get quantity discounts if you order more than one item.
  • Only Natural Pet: If buying only certified all-natural, sustainably made pet toys and supplies, then Only Natural Pet is your guaranteed discount source online. Plus, they have a no-questions-asked return policy and a 10-percent-off incentive for first-time customers.
  • Chewy: This online retailer offers 15 percent off for first-time customers, and gives free shipping on all orders over $49.
  • Value Pet Supplies: The best way to get discount savings on this website is through their larger quantity order prices—for instance, you can order 3, 6 or even larger orders of a single item at a price that has been additionally discounted for quantity.

If your pet has a favorite toy he never tires of, see if you can get a bulk discount by ordering it online in larger quantities, or go straight to the manufacturer's website and see what they can offer you.

This is a guest post by Shannon from Houston, TX